Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Expo America Tips Podcast and Discussion Post

Hi everyone, it's that time again. It's time to start stressing out about Book Expo America or BEA. In less than a month, a lot of us bloggers and bookish people will be off to BEA in Chicago. It's a week of what I like to call, "the most exhausting bookish fun you can have all year." It's often really overwhelming in terms of the amount of books and people you will see but if you are sufficiently prepared it will be great.

I am by no means an expert, those exist I'm sure, but I thought I would share some of my favorite tips and things I learned from my two trips to BEA. If this is your first time and you have questions hopefully this will answer some of them. Or if you are thinking about going then maybe this will encourage you. It really is a fantastic couple days full of books, authors, and fun. If you get the chance to go I would absolutely take advantage of it.

Also this is the podcast discussion topic so if you would rather listen to my tips, yeah, you can! Britt and I welcomed special guest Michelle from Pink Polka Dot books so you get tons of tips and different perspectives on things which is really cool.

And in the interest of being inclusive and all-encompassing, I thought I would also do some longer discussions on some of my tips and add a few I left off. My first year I did a getting to know you post so people can recognize me and say hi so I'll leave that HERE and I did another tip post last year if you want to check that out HERE. Also of note for people may be my wrap up posts which talk about what I did when. Imma overload you with information because that's what I like because I'm INTJ so here you go, 2014 BEA Wrap Up and 2015 BEA Wrap Up. But anyway, tips.

1.) Own the awkward. 
Me fangirling to Ernest Cline
Don’t be afraid to fangirl to the authors or say hello to random strangers in line or bloggers you recognize from Twitter. It’s definitely a great way to meet people who all share the same interest and to put a face to the avatar so to speak. But that also means that you shouldn’t be afraid to fly solo. My first year I didn’t know anyone and I did everything on my own. It was great. I just kind of went where I wanted and just did my own thing. Plus it helped me meet people because I didn't have anyone to talk to. I'm a good small talker so I tend to talk to people for as brief as a “hey, will you watch my stuff” or as long as a “hey whatcha reading?”

And as far as authors go, they are people too and often super sweet. Tell them you love their books, tell them you're excited to read them. The first year I talked to Lauren Oliver about Caspar and last year I told Leigh Bardugo I had to read her books in my bathtub because "that's my safe zone." I fangirled so hard with Ernest Cline about how much I loved Ready Player One. Did they think I was weird? Probably. But you know what, I remember those interactions and they were great.

2.) Take care of yourself. 
It’s a long day and you are on your feet for most of it. Sit down whenever you can, long lines are a great place to relax or just find a corner away from everything to recharge. Also drink lots of water, bring a bottle and fill it often. My first year I was bad at that and after the first day I was exhausted and it was mostly dehydration I think. And bring high protein snacks. You’ll be starving and will either not be able to get away for lunch or not want to spend the $20 on a sandwich at the cafeteria. But seriously, I know you are going to want to do as much as possible but you need to sometimes say no so that you can eat a relaxing lunch and drink a ton of water. You and your well-being should come first not getting one more book.

3.) Hang out afterwards
I hung out with these awesome nerds!
This I think is the biggest rookie mistake. You go to BEA for the first time and you are excited to meet people and chat but then at the end of the day you're exhausted and you just want to go back to your hotel to put your books down and nap. DON'T DO IT! I mean do it, naps are great and us introverts need some alone time to recharge but hang out after said nap. This is the only time a year you get to see that person you chat with on Twitter. Hang out with them. My first year I didn't do this but last year I forced myself to go to the Blogger Dinner and get Shake Shake afterwards with people. It was great. We had so much fun laughing and now we're all sharing hotel rooms. I know that there are some publisher parties but even if you're not going, there will still be events happening that are open to anyone (like book signings) and people planning fun things to do. There's a Blogger Dinner again this year so sign up. Go to them. Hang out! Have fun! Or don't I mean, you do you.

4.) Plan a lot in advance but be ready to throw it all out the window when you get there. 
I’m kind of a crazy planner, a thing I'm realizing as I talk to other people about how they prepare for BEA. But I like being super prepared, like overly prepared. I want to know exactly where I’m going from moment to moment. And that’s because nothing will go according to plan and this way at least I have the basics of one. I spend a good month putting together my color-coded spreadsheet based on what I want to do and when all the signings I'm excited about happen. Then I get there every morning, review my schedule, and change plans.

You really have to be super flexible. But that's mostly because things will go to shit very quickly. You'll look at your schedule and realize everything is at the same time and then there will be all kinds of unexpected things like galley drops, in-booth signings you didn’t know about, or super long lines that take up a lot of time. It’s good to make a super specific schedule but it’s going to all fall apart and that’s fine. Just be as prepared as you can be and then when you get there, wing it.

5.) Prioritize and be selective. 
The books I got last year, much less.
This kind of goes hand in hand with the last one but when you’re making your schedule know what can’t be missed and go there first. You need to decide what your top priorities are and go with that first. Seriously guys, there will be more books than you know what to do with. It can definitely be overwhelming but it can also be like Augustus Gloop in the Chocolate Room. Don't just take things because you can. Decide which books you'll read or are genuinely interested in. Yes, there will be surprises that turn out to be amazing books but if you have too many to read you'll never get to the gems.

My first year I ended up with like 75 books and I only read like 20 of them. My second year I took home 45 books, more than I wanted, but I read 30 of them so I feel like it was much better ratio. That year I was more selective and didn't just take books because I could. It's not a loss if you don't get everything and anything. You'll feel less overwhelmed if you are more selective.

6.) Get in line early.
What's this line for?
BEA is like line central. If you like books and lines you are in the right place. And people are super serious sometimes about their line. And I mean, they kind of have to be. It's hard to maintain order with that many people Some publishers and volunteers have it down and it's because they're serious about it. Most of the time the lines start an hour and half before the actual signing especially for big stuff. At the Javits they didn’t like you lining up that early but people do it anyway. There’s always like pre-line huddles and not a line lines though. Ask the attendees what they are waiting for and you may be surprised that it's what you want too. Or it may be something you had no idea you needed.

But keep in mind, if you are hell bent on meeting that author then get there really early and ask around for where the line is then park yourself in it and hunker down. And don't be one of those people who gets there late and then tries to cut. Saving a place for your friend who is in the bathroom or hitting up a galley drop is fine but be conscientious about it.

7.) Dress for comfort but business casual
This is more of a conference and less of a convention. If you're going to BookCon and want to bust out your fandom t-shirt that's cool but at BEA it's more like what you would wear to the office. This doesn't mean you have to go all out professional just dresses, nice pants, etc. Business casual.  Bring layers for one thing. The temperature is so variable this time of year so it's good to have an extra cardigan or something. But that being said dress for comfort. You will be on your feet all day and sitting on the floor when you're not. Nice pants or a dark denim with a nice shirt is totally okay. Also footwear is super important. Comfortable shoes is the key to success. So wearing sneaking is definitely advised. Seriously don't be embarrassed about wearing sneakers with your dress you will be glad you did.

8.) Get the galley drop schedules and wander the floor first thing.
For one thing a lot of galley drops, these are unsigned ARCs that you can take, happen first thing in the morning. I like visiting the major publishers right when the doors open. Plus that's a good time to collect their schedule of galley drops. Most publishers don't announce in advance when they are dropping books but you can either get a printed schedule for that day or they'll post their schedules so you can take a picture of it. The show daily, a magazine that comes out every day, is also a good place to look for daily galley drop schedules. Grab one on your way in and scan it while you're waiting in line. Galley drops are great because if you get a book you really want it can free up your schedule for signings.

9.) Bring a wheeled suitcase not tote bags.
Remember what I said about it being the place for line lovers. Well BEA is also heaven for tote bags. Every publisher, every day is giving out a free tote bag. You can go nuts collecting them all like Pokemon. Or just like pick your favorites and use those. I usually had one big one I would use and then if it got full I would empty it and go back for more. That's where your wheeled suitcase comes in. You'll get a lot of books so it's nice to have an easy way to transport them back and forth to the hotel. At the Javits you could check a bag for a few bucks and I'm guessing McCormick is the same. It's worth the price at the end of the day.

10.) Get a Reader Pass
This is the best kept secret at BEA. If you can spring for the extra $55 let me tell you, it is totally worth it. This is an additional pass that offer insurance on your signed books but more importantly it gives you a one-time use front of the line pass. What this means is that you can go to the beginning of the line without waiting. It's like the FastPass at Disney. It basically means that you can go ahead of everyone without waiting. Which is great because of everything I already said about lines and things being at the same time. It may seem like a pretty penny just to skip one line but i'm telling you, it's worth it. Not only are you assured that you get that one must have book but it also relieves a lot of stress. I used mine last year for Leigh Bardugo and it was fantastic. I got some side-eyes from people who waited but I regret nothing. These passes don't sell out and anyone can get one. GET ONE!

And that's all I got. But that's a lot, honestly probably too much but I figure maybe I'll overwhelm you now so when you get there it's easy. So now the question is, who else is going to BEA? I seriously want to meet people. I'll be there all three days of BEA, but not BookCon, so if you are there and you see me come say hi. Or tell me you're coming so I can be on the lookout for you. My favorite thing about BEA is meeting the people, people I know from Twitter and their blogs, or even just strangers so I can find new blogs. So say hi. Even if you see me in a big group. Don't be intimidated by those ladies, they're nice.

Okay, I should stop babbling. We'll babble together at BEA. Yes? Yes. Are you coming to BEA? Do you have any tips? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. This sounds like so much fun!!! I'm not able to make it this year but I'm going to try my best for next year.

    Have enough fun for me LOL


    1. Cool! I hope you can make it one year. It's amazing and so fun!

  2. Awesome advice~ I wish I was going! The wheeled suitcase is giving me images of it happening lol. Can't wait to see more pictures when you go this year!

    1. I wish you were going too! It'd be so great to meet you in person. But yes, all the pictures. Maybe I'll bring my Ripple button so it's like you are here.

  3. *waves* We're gonna be a big group of nerds together so please come say hello everyone!!
    Loads of awesome advice Cassi! Given my usual issues with packaging and flying and international stuff I was really good with ARCs last year, and I plan to do the same this year.

    I need to buy some more snack bars to pack for being on the floor since those are life savers for me. And I need to figure out what sort of clothes to pack for May's weather in Chicago this year!!

    1. You, my dear, will I'm sure get sick of me. We are rooming together after all. It'll be fun though. Like a big bookish sleepover. I'm going to have to be good this year. It's my first time flying. I usually drive and can just shove all the tote bags into my trunk. This time I have to think about packing.

      May is always tough for weather. I feel like it could be freezing or it could be boiling hot. Layers. Extra sweaters and jackets that pack well.

  4. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I registered Friday, but I am so clueless about what I'll actually be doing and how to prepare for BEA. I will read this more thoroughly later and listen to your podcast. I just signed up for the blogger dinner. Thanks for that! I still need to book my hotel. So many details! I am beyond excited though - for the books, the people, and 3 days in Chicago with no parental or wifely responsibilities!

    1. Yay! I'm so excited to meet you and i'm glad you find these helpful as a first timer. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter. It'll be so fun! I'm sure time away from your familial responsibilities will be great. I'm only a pet parent but I feel you. Vacations for all!

  5. Oh niiiiiice!! This is my first BEA! Finally! I could never handle NY on my own and never seemed to find anyone to go with because when I started asking, no one was planning and then later everyone's already buddied up. But this year I am going! Chicago is an easy drive for me, so happy times!!

    I've bought the Reader Pass and selected some authors already...still a bit confused on all that, but I picked out ones I know I would want to see!

    Now this Galley drop...this is just like a place to pick up unsigned ARCs, correct? Are they generally in the same place or do publishers each have their own nook or corner?

    And maps! Please tell me there are maps! I downloaded the BEA app and saw some, but I've always been more a physical book kind of girl, so the same thing applies with maps! Especially maps that lead to books! LOL!

    I signed up for the Blogger dinner as well, the initial part anyway and just waiting for the next step. I have had my hotel booked since October really, so all is well on that front. And I should have a roommate as I talked with another blogger awhile back, so hopefully all is still well on that front too. I haven't heard back from her with cancellation plans.

    Is BookCon fun? I bought a ticket for that as well, but now see that you and my roommate are both not going and wondering if I made a mistake. Obviously, still going to go since it's bought and paid for, but wondering for future reference if it's not something to do next time.

    Can't wait to meet you in Chicago though! And meet all the other bloggers I've talked to for years! I've met a few at RT Conventions in the past, but sadly it was always in passing. Again, it was one of those things I could never get a commitment out of anyone to be roomies. But oh well! So cannot wait for this! I've wanted to do BEA for ages! Ever since I realized what it really was!! Squee!

    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Wow! This comment is amazing and long and I hope my response does it justice. Feel free to DM though of you have specific questions and I can maybe answer them.

      I'm glad you can make it this year! I used to go to NYC a lot because my brother and sister lived there but I get that it's tough to get around and majorly expensive. Chicago is much more manageable.

      So I don't usually do the Reader Pass that gives you tickets for authors but I know people who have and I think they mail them to you or you'll get them when you register. If you want to check on that you could email the BEA people, they're pretty responsive.

      As for galley drops, each publisher has their own spot for it. They do them at their individual booths at the designated time. Most of them like you getting into an line and then they'll hand you a copy of you can take one. One of the reasons I suggest wandering around first thing is to get the lay of the land so you can figure out where the booths for the big publishers are in relation to one another and the autographing area. That's really helpful. And yes, maps are helpful. They'll give you one when you check in hopefully because yeah, the one on the app is sometimes hard to read.

      Cool! I'm glad you can come to blogger dinner. I think it'll be really fun. And that's smart about the hotel. We've had ours booked since December maybe. Are you staying nearby? They usually have shuttles to the hotels if you're not so look out for those.

      As for BookCon, it's fun but really overwhelming. It's more like a traditional con. There are tons of people and you have to buy the books to have them signed. But there are tons of amazing authors going that will not be at BEA so I think it'll be worth it. Enjoy!

      Okay phew! Thanks for the comments and I hope I hit all your questions. And like I said, feel free to let me know if you have any more. DM or @ me on Twitter. I'm happy to help.

  6. Love your tips! I remember meeting you that first year - you ARE a good small talker! I hope we see each other again in Chicago.

    1. Thanks doll! You are also very good at small talk. It was great meeting you first year and then seeing you on the floor last year. I hope our paths cross again. It would be great to catch up. Have you have a great BEA!

  7. Love these tips, and especially like #1. Embrace the awkward!!

    1. Thanks! I'm all about owning your awkward. It feels so good when you do that. I mean sometimes I own it as a defense mechanism but still.